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Burma Opposition Ends Boycott as UN Chief Addresses Parliament


Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi talks to reporters at the headquarters of her National League for Democracy party, April 30, 2012, in Rangoon.

Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi talks to reporters at the headquarters of her National League for Democracy party, April 30, 2012, in Rangoon.

Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her opposition National League for Democracy party have ended their week-long boycott of parliament, after accepting oath-of-office language that calls on her party to "safeguard" the constitution.

The Nobel laureate and 42 other NLD colleagues will enter Burma's parliament for the first time Wednesday. They had objected to the words "safeguard the constitution," arguing the language was crafted by a military junta that ruled the country for decades and jailed thousands of democracy activists.

The tactical retreat came Monday, as U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addressed the Burmese parliament, in a show of support for democratic reforms initiated by the new, nominally-civilian government that took office last year.

"The dramatic changes sweeping Myanmar [Burma] have inspired the world. And we know that your ambitions for the future reach higher still," Ban said. "I have no doubt that Myanmar will quickly regain its place as a respected and responsible member of the international community."

Burma's President Thein Sein (L) and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon shake hands before their meeting.

Burma's President Thein Sein (L) and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon shake hands before their meeting.

Ban, speaking in the administrative capital, Naypyitaw, hailed what he called the "vision, leadership and courage" of President Thein Sein, whose post-election initiatives include clearing the way for Aung San Suu Kyi and her party's successful run for office April 1.

The U.N. chief also praised the international community for its moves to ease long-standing sanctions imposed on the former military regime, and called for foreign investment.

"I urge the international community to go even further in lifting, suspending or easing trade restrictions and other sanctions," he said. "Second, Myanmar needs a substantial increase in international development assistance as well as foreign direct investment."

Meanwhile, in Rangoon, Aung San Suu Kyi addressed the NLD decision to be seated in the new parliament. She said she and her NLD colleagues were yielding to "the desires of the people" who elected them, and to those who have voiced disapproval for her party's boycott of the legislative body.

She is set to meet with the U.N. chief Tuesday, ahead of Mr. Ban's scheduled visit to upper Burma's Shan state.

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